Albany City Council Candidate Statements: Caryl O’Keefe

By Caryl O’Keefe
Friday October 27, 2006

I am a 22 year Albany resident running for City Council. Like so many others, my family chose to live here for the public schools. My husband and I have stayed on after our children graduated because we love Albany. This love of Albany has led me to participate in a variety of local civic and non-profit organizations over many years. With my civic experience and professional background, I feel I have much to offer Albany on the City Council.  

Professionally, I earned a BA in Economics from Illinois College and worked 35 years for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as an economist. For 15 of those years I was an Assistant Regional Commissioner for an eight state region, directing a staff of about 85. In that role I had policy-making and budgetary responsibility. This long policy experience in government is particularly good background for service on the City Council. I retired June 2, which allows me more time to serve Albany. 

Locally, I have volunteered fifteen years with the Friends of the Albany Library, a non-profit that currently raises about $35,000 a year for our library. I served in every role for the Friends and am currently Secretary. I was appointed to the City of Albany’s Library Board eight years ago and still serve on that Board, which exists to advise the Council on library issues including budget. I also volunteer with the Friends of Five Creeks, a cross-city environmental group, and am Secretary for the Albany Waterfront Coalition.  

There are two key reasons I decided to run for City Council. The first reason is to offer my experience as an economist for Albany’s fiscal future. I have voted for every tax measure over the years but would like to work on alternative options for funding City services. Albany’s funding has been “hand to mouth” for years. While the City is fiscally sound now, there is a possibility of a deficit next fiscal year (FY2007/08). This is driven by structural issues including revenues increasing at a slower rate than the rate of expenditures. The City’s longstanding tradition is to cut expenditures as needed to approve a balanced budget.  

Uncertain funding over the years has strained Albany’s ability to pay for all our needs. There is great demand for a variety of City services. Residents tell me they sometimes clean up parks near their homes. Others worry about car suspensions on some of our roads. Many would like more City recreation opportunities that currently are constrained by space limitations. I am concerned about completing repair of old sewers and storm drains as soon as possible. Albany has been operating under a cease and desist order for twenty years due to ground water pollution caused by decrepit sewers and storm drains. About three quarters of the problem has been resolved but there still is more to do. While the City has been successful in locating grants to supplement tax revenues, there are challenges paying for all the demand. I would like to find ways to upgrade our commercial tax base, including our business environment on Solano and San Pablo Avenues. My economist experience would be a unique addition on the Council to assist with Albany’s fiscal future. 

The second reason I decided to run is to offer a more open perspective for Albany’s waterfront. Debate about the best uses of the waterfront has been longstanding and sometimes contentious. I support an open planning process that is directed by the City, and includes the property owner and public, to develop plan options for our waterfront. I oppose any effort to change State law that could permit casino-style gambling in Albany.  

Our waterfront needs help! My personal goals for our waterfront are completion of the permanent (not just interim) Bay Trail through Albany, additional open space or park near the water with better maintenance, and assurance of necessary revenues for Albany. Our publicly-owned 88 acres at the waterfront should be more accessible and usable, ideally with better signage and some restroom facility. Currently the area is marred by huge chunks of construction debris remaining from its landfill days. Another goal is to find a way to increase local open space in the Eastshore State Park by giving the Albany Bulb to the park. Finally, my process goal is to promote a more positive climate for discussing waterfront options. 

It is safe to consider a variety of possible land uses on our waterfront, due to Albany’s 1990 Measure C. The 1990 Measure C prohibits any change in zoning or land use at the waterfront unless a majority of Albany voters approves the change. Due to the interest expressed by the voters in passing the 1990 Measure C, I think it most appropriate for Council members to be willing to consider options objectively—then let the people decide. I trust Albany voters’ judgment about any proposal. 

I am the only Council candidate to elect Albany’s voluntary campaign finance reform limitations, and decided to accept no contribution from anyone outside of Albany. I signed the Code of Campaign Ethics and have made every effort to run a fair and constructive campaign focusing on issues. Twenty former and current Albany mayors and School Board members—who understand the demands of public service—have endorsed me. The list of endorsers’ names and my points about Albany issues are available on my website at carylokeefe4albany.com. I welcome questions by email at caryl4council@comcast.net. Please consider me for Albany City Council, and vote on November 7.